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‘Orphaned’ workers in limbo

LINDA SOKO TEMBO writes                       

ABANDONED workers at the ‘fugitive’ contractor, Cooperativa Muratori Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC di Ravenna), are in limbo following the refusal by the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to pay them salary arrears owed to them by the construction company.

CMC di Ravenna had over 400 workers who were waiting to be paid their May salaries, leave days and gratuity depending on the contract they had signed with the Italian company.

The company abandoned the workers and left Zambia without paying them what was duel to them.

One of the employees, Godfrey Moomba, said in an interview some of the workers were engaging MCA so that they could be paid the money.

Mr Moomba said he and the other workers believed that MCA still owed their former employer, CMC di Ravenna, a lot of money for the works they had done.

He said he and the other workers had already been given pay slips by the human resources unit of CMC di Ravenna and that they were just waiting for the money from MCA.

But Millennium Project Completion Agency (MPCA-Zambia) says it cannot pay the workers because it does not owe them any money.

MPCA-Zambia director of communications John Kunda said the United States funded organisation did not owe CMC di Ravenna Construction Company any money.

Dr Kunda said MPCA-Zambia had paid the Italian company the workers had been working for for all the 98 percent works it had done under the contract.

He said MPCA-Zambia did not have any contract with CMC di Ravenna workers but their employer.

“We do not owe them money, and I want to make it very clear. This is how we operate; when you engage a contractor before the works start they are given advance payments.

“But against all things there are other things like performance guarantee. The constructor puts aside a performance guarantee. In an event that the constructor does not finish the job we can use the performance guarantee to complete the works,” Dr Kunda said. 

He said MPCA-Zambia had interim certificates it used to pay contractors once the engineer verified the works it had done.

It paid them contractor against the works that had been done.

Dr Kunda said CMC di Ravenna had done 98 percent of the works and only two percent of the works was remaining.

He said the money was still with MPCA-Zambia, including the performance guarantee funds. 

Dr Kunda said when the contract was terminated MCA wrote to the contractor and he acknowledged the termination of the contract.

The company had denied abandoning the project but that it had only suspended the works it had been allowed to do under the contract.

The workers are now in a quandary as they do not know who will pay them the money CMC di Ravenna owes them.

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